Delta

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Yesterday I reported that some Delta domestic awards cost only 5,000 SkyMiles one way, a 60% discount on the prevailing 12,500 mile rate we expect from legacy carriers. Other routes cost 10,000 SkyMiles one way. From playing around on delta.com, I’ve discovered a few more things.

  • So far, there are no known 5k segments that can be combined onto one award, so we don’t know how that would price.
  • Combine a 5k segment and a 10k segment, and you get a 10k award.
  • Combine a 5k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • Combine a 10k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • City pairs do not have a price. Segments have a price. (Explained below.)
  • All 5k and 10k awards are only bookable for flights through December 31, 2015.

Segments Have a Price, Not City Pairs

  • A “city pair” is your departing and arrival city no matter how many stops you have in between.
  • A “segment” is one wheels up and wheels down of an airplane.

The 5k and 10k prices we’ve uncovered on delta.com are for segments, not for city pairs. How do I know? Portland/San Francisco as a city pair doesn’t have just one price. The direct flight costs 12,500 miles. The routing via Seattle costs 10,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.50.21 PM

Why is that? Because Delta has clearly assigned prices to each segment.

  • The Portland-to-San-Francisco segment costs 12,500 SkyMiles as we can see above.
  • The Portland-to-Seattle segment costs 5,000 miles.
  • The Seattle-to-San-Francisco segment costs 10,000 miles.

Proof SEA-SFO segment is 10k:

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.51.31 PM

Proof SEA-PDX is 5k:Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.51.58 PM

When you fly a connecting domestic Delta award itinerary in which one segment prices at one price and the other at another, you just pay the higher segment price.

That’s why PDX-SFO is 12,500 miles and PDX-SEA-SFO is 10,000 miles.

You can see this rule over and over if you try to combine a 5k and 10k segment, a 5k and 12.5k segment, or a 10k and 12.5k segment.

For instance, San Diego to Sacramento prices at 10,000 miles via Los Angeles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.23.46 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.23.52 PM

That’s because the San Diego-to-Los-Angeles segment costs 10,000 miles, the Los-Angeles-to-Sacramento segment costs 5,000 miles, and delta.com goes with the higher price on connecting itineraries.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 4.24.52 PM

This logic implies that combining two 5k segments would cost just 5,000 total miles. Unfortunately we can’t test that because no two current 5k segments can be combined into a legal route.

I tried to combine the Sacramento-to-Los-Angeles and Los-Angeles-to-San-Jose 5k segments, but that’s not a legal routing, so I got this error.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.47.10 PM

All the 5k and 10k segments disappear after December 31

When Delta first made some SkyMiles awards 10,000 miles in March, they put out a press release and said that the discount was for awards flown by December 31, 2015 only. That rule appears to still be in place for both the 5k and 10k awards.

San Diego to Los Angeles only offers 10k awards until December 31, and the best price after that is 12,500 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.56.27 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.56.34 PM

Similarly, Seattle to Portland jumps to 12,500 miles from 5,000 miles after December 31.Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.55.26 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 7.55.33 PM

That’s everything my digging has uncovered:

  • So far, there are no known 5k segments that can be combined onto one award, so we don’t know how that would price.
  • Combine a 5k segment and a 10k segment, and you get a 10k award.
  • Combine a 5k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • Combine a 10k segment and 12.5k segment, and you get a 12.5k award.
  • City pairs do not have a price. Segments have a price.
  • All 5k and 10k awards are only bookable for flights through December 31, 2015.

Do you have any questions? Have you uncovered anything else?

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Delta SkyMiles have access to the best award space to all of Argentina–not just Buenos Aires–year round in economy and Business Class.

The backbone of the award space is AeroMexico availability on its daily flights from Mexico City to Buenos Aires. This award space is available for 2+ people in economy and 2+ people in Business Class on the vast majority of flights for the next year. Four flights weekly on the route are even on AeroMexico’s newest plane, the 787 Dreamliner with flat bed seats.

Unlike the Dreamliner Business Class award space to Argentina on United, you don’t have to end your Delta award in Buenos Aires because Delta also partners with Aerolineas Argentinas, which you can fly to a eight other major destinations for zero extra miles on the same award.

  • What is the award space with Delta SkyMiles to Buenos Aires?
  • How is the AeroMexico Dreamliner?
  • Where else can you go in Argentina?

Delta has terrible award space on its own flights from Atlanta to Buenos Aires, but partner AeroMexico releases a ton of award space from the United States to Mexico City and from there to Buenos Aires in economy and Business Class. All Delta partner awards from the United States mainland to Argentina cost:

  • 30,000 SkyMiles one way in economy
  • 62,500 SkyMiles one way in Business Class

Just how good is AeroMexico award space?

AeroMexico Award Space

Every day below that says “65,000” has award space for two people in Business Class from Mexico City to Buenos Aires. (Oddly Delta charges more from Mexico to Argentina than from the United States. When we start our award in the United States, we’ll pay just 62,500 miles.)

Other than some missing days around Christmas–and even then there’s space if you’re flexible–you can see there is award space for two people in Business Class from Mexico City to Buenos Aires almost every day.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.19.37 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.20.28 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.22.01 PM

The pattern is the same from Buenos Aires back to Mexico City. What about getting between the United States and Mexico City?

Award Space Between the United States and Mexico

Researching this article, I was very surprised how many AeroMexico flights there are between the United States and Mexico. Here’s a combined route map for Delta and AeroMexico flights between the United States and Mexico City.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 6.21.09 PM
Source: gcmap.com

Notes: BOS-MEX begins June 1, 2015. Fresno only has a direct AeroMexico flight to Guadalajara where you can connect to Mexico City.

If you live in any of the cities on the map, you can get to Buenos Aires with only one connection in Mexico City. While the Delta flights (Atlanta, Detroit, Salt Lake City) don’t have very good award space to Mexico City, the AeroMexico flights have amazing award space for two people in either cabin.

For instance, here is the award space for two people this Argentine Spring–October and November are a fantastic time to visit–from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.50.16 PM

There is award space every day. All of it features an AeroMexico flight from Mexico City to Buenos Aires, though some of it features an Alaska Airlines flight to Mexico City.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.53.05 PM

Award space is similarly excellent from Argentina back to the United States. For instance, award space for two people in economy and Business Class from Buenos Aires to Washington DC also shows award space almost every day.

Again, the backbone of this space is AeroMexico availability via Mexico City, but there are also options that fly Aerolineas Argentinas via New York. (AR1300 below)

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 1.55.24 PM

Connections in Argentina

All of these awards land at Buenos Aires Ezeiza airport (EZE). Most domestic flights in Argentina leave Aeroparque (AEP), which is much closer to the city, but Aerolineas Argentinas does operate some flights from EZE to the rest of the country including great tourist spots like Iguazu, Mendoza, Bariloche, Calafate, and Ushuaia.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.05.20 PM
Source: gcmap.com

You can add Aerolineas award space to your award for zero extra miles, but you can’t do it online.

You can search the award space on delta.com, like this search from EZE to Ushuaia that shows plenty of Business Class award space.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.02.35 PM But when you try to add the intra-Argentina segment to an international award, you get an error like this despite there being legal award space. Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.03.17 PM

The solution? Call Delta 800-323-2323 if you want to book your Argentina award with intra-Argentina award space.

AeroMexico Dreamliner

Four days a week, AeroMexico flies its new 787 Dreamliner between Mexico City and Buenos Aires. The rest of the flights are operated by 767s. AeroMexico also flies its Dreamliner on some New York <-> Mexico City and Los Angeles <-> Mexico City flights.

The Dreamliner has fully flat beds in Business Class in a 2-2-2 configuration, so, as usual, pick a middle seat if you’re flying alone to avoid having to climb over or be climbed over by anyone else.

God Save the Points has a review of Business Class on the AeroMexico Dreamliner. The review is complimentary of the seat, bed, and entertainment though it refers to the crew as “ghosts, you know those things you can’t see, talk to or receive a drink from.” [Scott: hahaha, I believe it]

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.44.10 PM
AeroMexico Dreamliner in reclined, but not yet flat, position. Source: http://www.godsavethepoints.com/news/dreamlinerreview

Try your hardest to fly a day served by the 787, because the 767 doesn’t feature fully flat beds.

Bottom Line

Argentina can be a tough award ticket. There’s almost no space on American Airlines flights to Argentina for most of the next year. United has amazing award space some days, but none for months at a time.

The solution is to use Delta miles on AeroMexico flights. Fly from over a dozen airports to Mexico City and connect to the AeroMexico Dreamliner to Buenos Aires. You’ll pay only 30,000 SkyMiles in economy or 62,500 SkyMiles in Business Class each way for a fully flat bed.

Your award doesn’t have to end in Buenos Aires. You can connect from there to eight cities in Argentina on Aerolineas Argentina for no extra miles, but you’ll have to call to book an award like that.

Further Reading

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This is the ninth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Where We Are and Where We’re Going

We’re in the section on redeeming miles. Once you understand how to redeem miles, you’ll understand which miles are right to earn for your travel goals. This post will focus on Delta miles, which are useful for a number of awards especially now that one way awards are allowed and award space has improved in 2015.

Why Collect Delta Miles?

Because they exist. It is no secret that Delta miles are less valuable than American Airlines, United, and Alaska miles.

But worth less does not mean worthless. Delta miles can be used to get to all six inhabited continents, and Delta miles are often the best to get to Australia in a flat bed. Plus since Delta now allows one way awards for half the price of roundtrips, lack of award space has become less of an issue.

  • What airlines can you fly with Delta miles?
  • What are the routing rules for Delta awards (stopovers, open jaws, free one ways)?
  • What are the special features of the SkyMiles program?
  • How can you book a Delta award?

Mileage Price

Delta SkyMiles are region-based miles. See The Five Types of Miles.

The number of miles for a Delta award is based on an award chart, but Delta stopped publishing its award chart in February 2015.

A region-to-region chart–even Delta’s unpublished chart–means that instead of having to calculate the number of miles for an award from your origin city to your destination city, say Atlanta to Rome, you merely figure out how many miles you need for an award from your origin region to your destination region, in this case North America to Europe.

Delta’s secret chart has five price levels in each cabin.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 1.52.41 AM

We redeem miles for Level 1 awards, the capacity controlled awards that cost the fewest miles, which are not available in every cabin on every flight. Level 2 awards only cost a little more while Level 3-5 awards are a ton more miles.

To have a multi-segment award price at Level 1, every segment in that direction must have Saver award space.

To find out the prices of Level 1-5 awards to each region, check out these screenshots of Delta’s charts before they were taken down.

Partners

Delta is a member of SkyTeam. That means you can use its miles on all these airlines:

  • Delta Airlines
  • Aeroflot (Russia)
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Aeroméxico
  • Air Europa (Spain)
  • Air France
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines (Taiwan)
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • China Southern Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM (Netherlands)
  • Korean Air
  • Middle East Airlines (Lebanon)
  • Saudia
  • TAROM (Romania)
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Xiamen Airlines (China)

Delta also has several partners that are not a part of SkyTeam. You can also redeem miles to fly these airlines:

  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Alaska Airlines
  • GOL (Brazil)
  • Hawaiian Airlines (only interisland flights)
  • Virgin Atlantic (United Kingdom)
  • Virgin Australia

Subject to other routing rules, which I’ll detail below, you can freely combine Delta flights, SkyTeam partner flights, and other partner flights onto a single award.

Routing Rules

You can book one way awards with Delta miles for half the price of roundtrip awards since January 1, 2015.

Roundtrip Delta awards cannot have any stopovers.

Beyond that, awards have the same routing rules as paid tickets. You can search the routing rules for paid tickets on Expert Flyer. For most domestic itineraries, your legal layover points are specified. For most international awards, a Maximum Permitted Mileage that you can fly is specified, and you can layover anywhere.

All award travel must be completed within one year of the original booking. Changes can’t extend this time frame, so if you can’t fly within one year of your original booking, you’ll have to cancel you award.

Stopovers

Since January 1, 2015, Delta awards do not allow stopovers.

A stopover is a layover of more than 4 hours on a domestic award or 24 hours on an international award.

Open Jaws

When you can book one way awards, like you can with Delta miles, you can always book as many open jaws as you’d like.

Keep in mind that an open jaw is not a hole in the middle of a single one way award. Those are prohibited.

Free One Ways

Free one ways require a stopover at your home airport. Delta awards can’t have free stopovers. Therefore Delta awards cannot have free one ways.

Taxes, Fees, and Fuel Surcharges

Taxes

Delta awards require you to pay the government taxes associated with the itinerary.

These start at $5.60 each direction for domestic awards and go up to $300 if you fly roundtrip to the United Kingdom in Business Class. Generally international awards have roundtrip taxes of $50 to $150.

Fees

Phone Fee: There is no award booking fee for awards booked at delta.com. Calling Delta to book an award incurs a $25 per person fee, which is waived for Gold Medallions and higher.

Changes: There is a $150 fee per person to make changes to Delta awards, which is waived for Platinum and Diamond Elites. No changes are allowed within 72 hours of departure.

Cancellation: There is a $150 fee per person to cancel Delta awards, which is waived for Platinum and Diamond Elites. No cancellations are allowed within 72 hours of departure.

Full details on Delta’s award fees can be found here.

Fuel Surcharges

Delta collects fuel surcharges on many of its partners. See a near-complete list here.

How to Book Delta Awards

These partners can be searched on delta.com.

  • Delta
  • Aeroflot
  • AeroMexico
  • Air France
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • China Southern
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • GOL
  • KLM
  • Korean
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia

Partners that can’t be searched online can be searched by calling Delta at 800-323-2323 or by searching other SkyTeam award search engines.

If you can’t seem to find the award you want for your dream trip, you can hire my Award Booking Service to search and book your Delta awards. We have the expertise to search every Delta partner to maximize convenience and luxury while minimizing out-of-pocket cost.

Bottom Line

I don’t love Delta miles, but I collect them as part of a balanced miles strategy.

Delta miles are great to Australia and can be used to fly to any inhabited continent.

Delta’s award chart is expensive for economy and Business awards, and you can’t book First Class awards at all on international flights.

No stopovers are allowed on Delta awards, but at least you can now book one way awards for half the roundtrip price.

Any questions? What did I leave out?

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I naturally categorize miles and points into two groups:

  1. Broadly useful
  2. Niche programs

The first type of miles are the miles you want to stockpile if you’re hoping to follow a simple mile-accumulation strategy to meet all your future travel goals. Ideally these miles benefit from cheap award charts across all classes of service and to all regions without incurring fuel surcharges on awards.

By contrast, niche programs have some great values on their award charts, but lots of flaws. Maybe the program collects fuel surcharges on most awards, or charges too much for redemptions in premium cabins, or simply doesn’t release much Saver award space on flights.

Niche programs can be ignored by those who merely dabble in miles collection, but serious miles collectors should know the strengths of and collect miles in niche programs too.

  • Which miles do I consider broadly useful?
  • Which programs do I consider niche programs?
  • What are the niche programs’ strengths?

Broadly Useful

None of these programs is perfect, but I consider all the following programs to be broadly useful programs in which a person could exclusively collect miles and still get a fair deal on the vast majority of potential redemptions:

  • American Airlines
  • United
  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Ultimate Rewards

American Airlines

American Airlines miles offer good value on most routes in all cabins. The oneworld alliance great members like Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and LAN, and American miles can be redeemed on 24 airlines.

There are some weaknesses with American Airlines miles:

  • American Airlines collects fuel surcharges on British Airways flights. British Airways award space is the most available award space to Europe and Africa. If you avoid booking British Airways flights with American Airlines miles, you are hamstrung to Africa especially.
  • I–and the experts–anticipate a devaluation announced in late 2015 for awards booked in early 2016 or later.
  • Awards to the Middle East and India are overpriced.

United

Even after 2014’s devaluation, I still think United miles are among the most broadly useful airline miles to stockpile for a few reasons:

  • Award space is good on United and partners.
  • United is a member of the Star Alliance, the largest alliance in the world, with good coverage of every continent.
  • United never imposes fuel surcharges on awards.
  • United’s economy awards are fairly priced.
  • United’s Business Class awards on its own planes are not outrageously priced.

Of course, the big problem is that partner First Class awards are basically out of reach. Who has 240,000 United miles for one roundtrip to Asia in First Class?

Still, I’ll almost always be happy when folks come to my Award Booking Service with a stash of United miles.

Ultimate Rewards

Since Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 instantly to United miles, Ultimate Rewards are at least as useful as United miles. With the added flexibility of transferring to niche programs like British Airways, Singapore, Virgin Atlantic, Southwest, and Korean plus hotel programs, Ultimate Rewards are the second most flexible currency overall.

Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints

The most flexible and broadly useful points are Starpoints, which transfer to American, Alaska, and 27 other airline programs mostly at favorable rates. Every day, 20,000 Starpoints transfers to 25,000 American Airlines or Alaska Airlines miles.

The big drawbacks with Starpoints:

  • Most transfers take days.
  • 2 Starpoints transfer to 1 United mile. Since United devalued, I’d love that transfer to get revalued to 1:1 like with American, Delta, Alaska, and dozens of other airlines.

Intermediate Usefulness

These three programs have bigger warts than the programs above, but are too broadly useful for me to call “niche” programs.

  • Delta
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Express Membership Rewards
  • Citi ThankYou Points

Delta

Delta has some definite strengths:

  • There are good value awards and decent space to Australia (Virgin Australia), Africa (Air France), Europe (various partners), Asia (various partners), and South America (AeroMexico). Very few of these awards have fuel surcharges.
  • The often-times higher prices are offset by the ease with which you can earn Delta miles from Delta cards, Membership Rewards-earning cards, and Starpoints-earning cards.
  • Since January 1, 2015, Delta allows one way award redemptions for half the price of roundtrips.

But the weaknesses are far greater than with competing US-based airlines:

  • Delta doesn’t offer much Saver award space on domestic flights, making it hard to get to a gateway to connect to partner award space abroad. This is a huge drawback.
  • Delta collects fuel surcharges on a bunch of its partners.
  • Delta collects fuel surcharges on all awards originating in Europe. This essentially means that its miles can be used for one ways to Europe, but are a terrible value for one ways home.
  • Delta miles cannot be redeemed for three-cabin international First Class.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has a hodge-podge of partners that fly all over the world.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 2.54.32 AMAlaska has access to some of the world’s most coveted award space like Emirates First Class space with no fuel surcharges.

Some of the award charts are very cheap–there is a different one for each partner to each region–you can book one way awards for half the roundtrip price, and you can even get a stopover on one way awards.

The only thing that holds Alaska miles back from being more widely useful is that you cannot freely combine partners on Alaska awards. Each direction needs to be all one partner’s flights or all one partner’s flights plus Alaska flights. This rule hampers your options incredibly, especially if you don’t live in a city where Alaska flies!

Membership Rewards

Membership Rewards have a large number of partners, but none of them is in the most useful category above. All are 1:1 partners in case otherwise noted.

  • Delta Airlines
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Canada (Aeroplan)
  • Alitalia Airlines
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • British Airways Avios
  • Cathay Pacific
  • EL AL Israel Airlines 1,000 MR to 20 EL AL point
  • Air France & KLM Flying Blue
  • Emirates
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Iberia Plus Avios
  • JetBlue 250 MR to 200 TrueBlue Points
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin America 200 MR to 100 Elevate Points

Delta is in this intermediate category, and the rest of the programs are in the niche category below including Virgin Atlantic, Aeroplan, ANA, British Airways Avios,  Flying Blue (Air France), Hawaiian, and Singapore. The big problem is that all the global partners impose fuel surcharges on most of their awards.

You can creatively mostly avoid fuel surcharges, but you have to work hard enough that this program can’t be in the “Broadly Useful” category.

Citi ThankYou Points

ThankYou Points now transfer to 11 airlines at a 1:1 rate:

  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
  • Etihad Guest
  • Garuda Indonesia Frequent Flyer
  • Qatar Privilege Club
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Thai Airways Royal Orchard Plus
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • Malaysia Airlines Enrich
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • Qantas miles

I don’t know of a single high value use of the eight programs that are not in bold. But between Singapore KrisFlyer, Air France Flying Blue, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and the ability to use ThankYou Points for 1.25 to 1.6 cents each toward any flight on any airline, this program belongs in the intermediate category.

Singapore miles allow fuel-surcharge-free awards on United flights often for fewer mile than United would charge for the same award including to Hawaii, Europe, South America, and within the continental US; they’re the only way to book Singapore Suites; and they have awesome stopover rules.

Flying Blue miles allow you to book some Delta flights for fewer miles than with Delta miles, and allow access to Promo Awards like 12,500 miles one way to Europe or Israel.

Virgin Atlantic miles aren’t just about 17,500 mile awards to London or 27,500 mile Premium Economy awards to London. They also allow 45,000 mile roundtrips to South America on Delta and a few other high value awards.

Citi partners with American Airlines. If Citi ever adds American Airlines as a 1:1 transfer partner, ThankYou Points will shoot to the most useful category.

Niche Usefulness

The absolute wrong conclusion to draw about the programs in this section is that they are not useful. Each program listed here–and many programs not listed here have some incredible, high-value awards. But most of their awards are a poor value.

You shouldn’t focus all your miles collecting in these programs, but you should know their strengths in case your travel goals overlap with their strengths, and you have transferable points. Here are some of my favorite niche programs and their strengths:

Of course, each of these programs has major flaws. Southwest points can’t be used for First Class, international travel beyond the Caribbean, or any partners. Any Avios awards with layovers get pricey very quickly. Almost all the international programs collect big fuel surcharges on most awards (but not on the awards mentioned above where there are no or small surcharges.)

Because of the weaknesses, I rarely collect miles in niche programs unless there’s an extremely attractive credit card sign up bonus, but I constantly consider the programs as transfer options for my Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, ThankYou Points, and Starpoints to take advantage of their one or two sweetspots.

Action Item

If you’re currently collecting niche miles with your day-to-day credit card spending, put more of your spending on cards that earn more widely useful miles and points like the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express with 25,000 bonus Starpoints after spending $5k in the first six months, which earns the most versatile points of all.

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Your Take

Are any of the programs listed here mis-categorized for you? Is one of the niche programs perfect for all your awards? Does one of my “generally useful programs” never seem to offer you value? Am I letting United miles off too lightly for its big devaluation last year?

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This blog became famous because I was the first to articulate how to book free one ways on United and US Airways awards.

A free one way is a one way trip to or from your home airport that is tacked onto another award for no extra miles. Free one ways cut your flight bill in half for a second trip without adding to the price of the first trip!

American Airlines killed free one ways on its awards in April 2014 by nixing all free stopovers because free one ways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport. Delta killed its free one ways on January 1, 2015 with the elimination of free stopovers on its awards (though in return, we do now get to book one way Delta awards.)

What’s the current state of free one ways with major frequent flyer programs?

If you get confused during this post, please read my Introduction to Free One Ways.

Alaska Airlines

Free one ways are possible on one way Alaska Airlines awards. That means you can book two free one ways per roundtrip awards.

Alaska has an amazing group of partners:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Horizon Air
  • AeroMexico
  • Air France
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways (fuel surcharges)
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Fiji
  • KLM
  • Korean
  • Qantas
  • Ravn Alaska (flights within Alaska)
  • PenAir (flights within Alaska)

Unfortunately you must book only one partner each one way award (you may add Alaska Airlines flights as well.) And unfortunately most Alaska Airlines awards need to either start or end in the United States.

Abide by those rules, though, and enjoy some amazing free one way opportunities.

For full details, see Free One Ways on Alaska Airlines Awards.

American Airlines

Free one ways are impossible on awards booked with American Airlines miles. Free one ways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport, and American has eliminated the chance to take any free stopovers on awards.

British Airways

Free one ways are impossible on awards booked with Avios. Every flight on an Avios award has a mileage cost (determined exclusively by its distance and the cabin you book.) If every flight has a cost, there’s no way to get one for free as a free one way.

Delta Airlines

Free one ways are impossible on Delta awards since stopovers were eliminated on January 1, 2015.

United Airlines

Free one ways are possible on both international United awards and awards between the mainland and Hawaii. Free one ways are not possible on awards wholly within the mainland United States and Canada.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 9.24.10 PM
Roundtrip award from Los Angeles to Honolulu with a later free oneway to Newark

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 9.24.16 PM

You can either have a free one way BEFORE your main roundtrip award TO your home airport or AFTER your main roundtrip award FROM your home airport.

United’s routing rules are pretty lenient for free one ways. You can do some amazing backtracking. You can also do “cheap one ways” where you fly the extra leg to a distant land and pay far fewer miles than you “should.”

You will get a lot of errors trying to book free one ways on united.com because united.com’s multi-city search tool is broken. Don’t despair. Find all the space you need with one way searches, then call in to book.

For full details, see Master Thread: Free One Ways on United Awards.

While American, US Airways (by ending its mileage program), and Delta killed its free one ways recently, and free one ways have never been possible with Avios, free one ways are still possible on awards booked with United and Alaska miles.

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21

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I was explaining to my brother the changes that Delta has made in 2015, and I mentioned that the one I just couldn’t believe was that Delta eliminated its award chart. It seems self-evident to all of us in the miles game that Delta eliminating its award chart is insane and unjustifiable.

(Delta deleted the chart from its site, but the possible priced for awards are the same now as they were when the chart was on delta.com. You can see screenshots of the deleted chart here.)

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 10.42.05 PM

“Delta eliminating its chart is no big deal,” he replied.

“Of course it is,” I countered. “Now there is no easy way to know how many miles you need to collect for your dream trip.”

“But,” he pointed out, “there isn’t any way to know how much cash you need if you’re saving up for a dream trip either. Right now maybe a roundtrip to Australia is $1,000, but it could be $1,500 by the time you’ve saved $1,000.”

True, but now there’s no easy way to compare how many miles trips are to each region, so you can find sweet spots. Of course, there’s no easy way to find the best value cash flights by reading off a region-by-region table either.

But but but, now there’s no way to know the “Saver” award price with Delta miles to where you want to go. If you search delta.com and see that one way to Europe is 37,500 miles on the day you want, is that a good price or not? Of course, if you search and find the flight is $500, is that a good price or not?

He had a point. While we’re used to award charts, we get by perfectly fine when paying for our cash tickets without any table that tells us what flights from one region to another should cost.

I think I was just tired from jetlag and in the moment missed what I think are other big problems with Delta eliminating its chart:

  1. Now it will be easier for Delta to go revenue-based on award redemptions. They won’t have to even announce the change because right now Delta award prices are “whatever price Delta says” anyway.
  2. All Delta’s competitors have an award chart.
  3. All Delta flights are available for some amount of miles. We know from the past chart that there are five possible prices, Level 1 through 5, and we knew the Level 5 price. Removing the chart removes from our knowledge the maximum number of miles we’d need if we really wanted to redeem our miles for an in demand flight. While I have never redeemed a Level 5 award and hope never to redeem one, what that price is sets a floor for the value of our miles.

When I write out my reasons, they don’t seem particularly strong.

I was angry when Delta removed its chart, and I still feel that emotion, but I can’t logically articulate why not having a chart is a big deal.

So I guess I agree that it’s not a big deal in and of itself that Delta eliminated its award chart because we still have screenshots of the charts, award prices haven’t changed, and my brother’s arguments about not knowing what a flight will cost with cash either have some validity. The big deal is not the loss of the chart; it is the signal Delta sent by eliminating its chart.

It just feels like Delta doesn’t care about SkyMiles members. Every other airline has an award chart, but not Delta.

And it feels like Delta is preparing for something worse–like revenue-based redemptions–by getting rid of its chart.

Your Take

Do you have some stronger reasons why Delta eliminating its chart is a big deal? Or is the lack of a chart not as bad as the signal that Delta sends by not having a chart?

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1

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Delta has a new daily flight from Philadelphia to London that begins April 26, 2015 with excellent economy award space immediately and good Business Class award space later in the year.

Delta charges 30,000 miles each way in economy and 62,500 miles each way in flat bed Business Class. If you don’t live in Philadelphia, there are flights from Delta hubs plus Seattle and Raleigh/Durham to Philadelphia to connect.

Award Space

First I searched for one passenger in economy just on the direct flight from Philadelphia to London. As you can see, the flight starts April 26, and there is award space at Delta’s cheapest transatlantic price of 30,000 SkyMiles nearly every day for the first four weeks.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 6.04.58 PM

Even later in the summer, award space is excellent with almost every day available for 30,000 or 37,500 SkyMiles, which used to be Level 1 and Level 2 on Delta’s award chart before that were eliminated.Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 6.05.20 PMI ran the same search for two passengers, and award space is still available for 30,000 miles per person from June 27 to July 18. That’s excellent for peak season.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 6.05.42 PM

Next I searched for Business Class for one passenger from April 26 for the first five weeks of the route. There is no award space at the cheapest price of 62,500 miles. A few days in May are 80,000 miles one way.Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 6.06.28 PM

Later in the year, there is regular Business Class award space for 62,500 miles one way.Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 6.06.57 PM

Taxes

Taxes departing the United Kingdom are very high. A roundtrip in economy is 60,000 Delta miles + $192 in taxes.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 6.07.59 PM

 

Taxes are even higher in Business Class at about $300 roundtrip. You can save almost $150 on the economy award and $250 on the Business Class award by returning from a lower tax country like Spain.

As always, if you want to fly an open jaw to Europe, fly into London and home from somewhere on the continent with lower taxes.

You’re Better at Searching than Delta.com

This great award space to Europe over the Summer will be protected by the incompetence of the Delta search engine. Philadelphia is not a Delta hub, so delta.com doesn’t look for connections via Philadelphia.

But there’s no reason you can’t fly Raleigh to Philly to London on two Delta flights. If both have Level 1 award space, the cost is 30,000 miles. You just need to search segment-by-segment.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 10.08.58 PM

On May 1, there is Level 1 award space (we know because it prices at 12,500 miles one way) from Raleigh to Philadelphia–pictured below–and from Philadelphia to London–see the calendars above.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 6.09.29 PM

But on May 1, Raleigh to Philadelphia to London itineraries do not show up on a delta.com search for awards from Raleigh to London. All the 30,000 mile routings are via JFK, including some with 10+ hour layovers.
Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 6.10.33 PMIf a Delta award connecting in Philadelphia is the best itinerary the day you want to fly, do what you always have to do when you want to book an award you can’t bring up online: call the airline. Call Delta at 800-323-2323 and feed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight you found. Ask for the phone fee to be waived, since you couldn’t book online.

Possible Connections

Delta and Alaska Airlines, a Delta partner searchable on delta.com, have several flights to Philadelphia that you could fly to connect to this transatlantic award space.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 6.12.01 PM
Source: wikipedia.org

If you live in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Seattle, etc, you can connect to London with one stop in Philadelphia for as little as 30,000 Delta miles.

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3

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Aeroflot flights are now bookable on delta.com with Delta SkyMiles. The Russian carrier flies from New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and Miami to Moscow and throughout Russia and Europe.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 2.47.12 AM

This is the seventh SkyMiles partner that has been added to delta.com in 2015.

Award space is excellent on Aeroflot’s flights in economy to Moscow this summer, and award space is good in Business Class on the New York route. Aeroflot’s Business Class features flat beds. The only drawback is that there are mild fuel surcharges on Aeroflot award flights booked with Delta miles.

Award Space

On delta.com, you can easily pull up a five week snapshot of award space on direct flights on any route in economy or Business Class.

This is July 2015 for two passengers in economy from New York (JFK) to Moscow (SVO.) There is award space every day on Aeroflot flights.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 2.20.53 AM

In Business Class from New York to Moscow for two passengers, award space is not quite as good, but still quite open if you are flexible on the day of the week you can fly.Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 2.21.19 AM

Note that dates that say 62,500 + $129 have award space on the Aeroflot flight. Dates that says 62,500 + $20 have award space on the Delta flight. That represents about $100 in fuel surcharges each direction on Aeroflot flights between the United States and Russia.

A roundtrip in Aeroflot Business Class costs 125,000 Delta miles + $270.Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 2.23.00 AM

I like to avoid fuel surcharges as much as anyone, but I’d pay these if they were my only option for a direct flight to Russia. The out-of-pocket cost of $270 is less than the taxes on a roundtrip Business Class award to London (around $300.)

Award space from Miami, Washington, and Los Angeles is not as good as award space from New York. Los Angeles to Moscow only has three days in July with award space for one passenger in Business Class with Saver award space on Aeroflot.

 

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 2.31.02 AMWashington to Moscow has a bit more award space, but only has eight days in June.

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 2.34.04 AM

The Product

Aeroflot’s Business Class product looks better than you might expect, but not quite world class. The longhaul flights that serve the United States have Business Class in rows of 2-2-2 seats. The seats are flat-ish, though they definitely look a little angled.
Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 2.26.13 AM

I would rather fly Delta Business Class to Europe, but this product definitely looks like one on which I could get some sleep.
Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 2.27.09 AM

Here is a video of the Aeroflot 777 which flies to New York. The video features images of all the cabins.

Bottom Line

Delta SkyMiles are getting easier to redeem as more partners are added to delta.com. The following airlines’ award space are now bookable on delta.com:

  • Delta
  • Aeroflot
  • AeroMexico
  • Air France
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • China Southern
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • GOL
  • KLM
  • Korean
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia

Not all Delta partners are bookable online though. Here are Delta partners you still cannot book on delta.com:

  • Air Europa
  • Czech Airlines
  • Great Lakes Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Kenya Airways
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia
  • TAROM
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Xiamen Air

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3

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Delta now offers awards within the United States for as little as 10,000 miles one way in economy. Previously the minimum price for a domestic award was 12,500 miles (or at least I think it was, since Delta doesn’t have an award chart anymore.) From the press release:

New One-Way Award tickets beginning as low as 10,000 miles plus taxes and fees, available through Dec. 31, 2015 for travel in select U.S., Mexican and Caribbean markets. Customers can now fly to several popular Award destinations with a 21-day minimum advance purchase.

That’s excellent news, though note that the sale is only temporary. The cheapest awards for domestic travel in 2016 price out at 12,500 miles. For instance, here is Atlanta to New Orleans, one of the routes with 10,000 mile awards in 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 6.48.08 PM

Note that the 10,000 mile days abruptly end on December 31 and are replaced in January 2016 with 12,500 mile days.

But my biggest question is what routes are on sale for 10,000 miles? Delta, taciturn as ever, doesn’t say. I did some digging, and I’m still not sure.

What Routes Are on Sale?

United has a similar offer. It offers 10,000 mile domestic awards for itineraries 700 miles or less.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 3.03.36 PM

For instance, Houston to Atlanta is 10,000 United miles at the Saver level because it just under 700 miles in the air.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 3.03.50 PM So, I thought, maybe Delta’s 10,000 mile awards are also under a set distance. I searched award prices on a bunch of close-ish awards from Atlanta to check my theory.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 6.43.08 PM

Here were the results:

  • Charleston, WV (363 miles flown): 12,500 SkyMiles
  • Cincinnati (373 miles flown): 12,500 SkyMiles
  • Tampa (406 miles flown): 10,000 SkyMiles
  • New Orleans (425 miles flown): 10,000 SkyMiles
  • Indianapolis (432 miles flown): 12,500 SkyMiles
  • Baton Rouge, LA (448 miles flown): 10,000 SkyMiles
  • Little Rock, AR (453 miles flown): 12,500 SkyMiles
  • Richmond (481 miles flown): 12,500 SkyMiles
  • St. Louis (484 miles flown): 12,500 SkyMiles
  • Pittsburgh (526 miles flown): 12,500 SkyMiles
  • Chicago (606 miles flown): 12,500 SkyMiles
  • Houston (689 miles flown): 12,500 SkyMiles

So the sale is not distance-based, at least not strictly so.

Can you fly from one city on that list to another via Atlanta for 10,000 miles if both cost 10,000 miles from Atlanta?

Yes! You can fly from one city on the 10,000 mile list from Atlanta to another on the 10,000 mile list for the same 10,000 SkyMiles. For instance, Tampa to New Orleans–both on the 10,000 mile list from Atlanta–is 10,000 SkyMiles.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 6.53.41 PMSo maybe the sale works like this: certain cities are selected and domestic awards to/from those cities at the Saver level all cost 10,000 miles. That would mean all awards to/from Tampa were 10,000 miles.

That’s not the case! You cannot fly from a 10,000 mile city to a 12,500 mile city for 10,000 miles. Such an award costs 12,500 miles. Tampa (on the 10,000 mile list from Atlanta) to Little Rock (on the 12,500 mile list from Atlanta) is 12,500 SkyMiles.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 7.09.48 PM

With all this data, the sale must work like this:

Certain city pairs determined by Delta will cost 10,000 SkyMiles one way for awards flown by December 31, 2015. Delta hasn’t listed those city pairs. You can combine city pairs that are on the 10,000 mile list, so if A <-> B and B <-> C are on the list, A-B-C costs 10,000 miles also.

Got it?

The question remains: which city pairs cost 10,000 miles? Let us know the ones you find in the comments, especially if they are awards to Mexico and the Caribbean.

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7

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China Airlines is a Taiwan-based member of SkyTeam, whose flights are bookable with Delta miles.

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 4.58.39 PM

China Airlines recently started flying a world-class flat bed Business Class product between the United States and Asia on its brand new 777-300ERs.

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 5.08.09 PM

Now all China Airlines award space is searchable and bookable on delta.com. Award space is excellent from the United States to Taiwan and beyond to the rest of Asia.

Routes

China Airlines flies from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu to Taipei. The three mainland routes are the most important because they feature the 777-300ER with its top-of-the-line Business Class product.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 12.11.56 PM
from gcmap.com

From Taiwan, China Airlines, China Eastern, and China Southern–all SkyTeam members–connect you to the rest of Asia.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 12.18.21 PM

Wherever you end up in Asia should cost 70,000 miles one way in Business Class (but don’t tell Delta I told you that. They 1984-ed their award chart last month.)

Product

Only China Airlines’ 777-300ERs feature fully flat Business Class with aisle access from every seat. Its A340s and 747s feature an old, non-flat Business Class. Delta.com lists the plane flying the route. Choose wisely.

By the end of 2015, all the routes from North America (excluding Hawaii) should be operated by the 777-300ER.

Here’s a full post with many pictures of the 777-300ER experience on China Airlines.

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 5.08.17 PM

Other Info on China Airlines Awards: Blackouts and Fuel Surcharges

China Airlines has blackout dates when it releases no award space to its partners. For 2015 and early 2016, those are:

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 12.54.48 PM

China Airlines flights have fuel surcharges. Delta SkyMiles awards usually collect fuel surcharges when the underlying cash ticket would have them. In this case, fuel surcharges are about $120 per direction–annoying but pretty low as fuel surcharges go. The cost of a one way award from the United States to Taiwan in Business Class on China Airlines with SkyMiles is 70,000 miles + $143.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 11.56.13 AM

Award Space

I searched a few of the routes for one and two passengers in Business Class. There’s very good award space for one passenger outside of the blackout dates. For two passengers, there’s only space on about half as many days.

For instance, here is San Francisco to Taipei for two passengers in Business Class in September and October. There’s award space on 14/35 days.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 11.53.48 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 11.53.54 AM

Here’s Los Angeles to Taipei on similar dates for one passenger. There’s award space 29/35 days.Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 11.55.21 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 11.55.26 AM

Bottom Line

China Airlines award space is now searchable and bookable on delta.com.

Award space is excellent in China Airlines new, top-of-the-line Business Class on its 777-300ERs for one passenger and pretty good for two passengers outside of published blackout dates.

Delta does collect fuel surcharges of $120 per direction in China Airlines Business Class between the United States and Taiwan.

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5

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American Airlines, United, and Delta fly flat beds on their daily flights between New York-JFK and San Francisco and Los Angeles. Delta also flies its flat beds between New York-JFK and Seattle.

All three airlines compete in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Only Delta flies between Seattle and JFK with flat beds.
All three airlines compete in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Only Delta flies between Seattle and JFK with flat beds.
  • Which has the best flat bed award space on the routes?
  • What are the prices? 
  • What are the products?

The Products & Prices

Delta

Delta throws 757s and 767s configured with flat bed seats at its transcontinental routes. Like all Delta planes, there are only two cabins–in this case sold as economy and BusinessElite. The 767s (on the right) are more comfortable in Business because their 1-2-1 layout gives full aisle access to every seat. The 757’s (on the left) 2-2 layout means climbing over your neighbor.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.10.49 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.11.07 PM

For Business Elite at the Saver level, Delta charges 32,500 miles one way. Here’s Delta’s page on what to expect on its transcontinental service.

United

United has a dedicated fleet of 757-200s for all of its transcontinental service that it sells as p.s. Premium Service. The fleet has two cabins, and Business Class is laid out 2-2 as on Delta’s 757s, meaning no direct aisle access from every seat.

United charges 25,000 miles each way in Business Class at the Saver level.

American

American’s transcontinental fleet is the newest and best. Its A321s have five rows of 1-1 First Class and five rows of 2-2 Business Class. All 30 seats convert to flat beds.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.20.50 PM
AA Transcon First Class

American charges 25,000 miles one way in Business Class and 32,500 in First Class. Here’s AA’s page on what to expect from the service.

Award Space

All of that, especially the Saver award prices, is just theoretical if the airlines don’t consistently release award space on their flights at the Saver level.

From my searches, I found that Delta doesn’t release much–if any–Business Class award space on its transcontinental flat beds. Between Seattle and New York, the space is mainly 45,000 mile Level 2 space. Between California to New York, it is 67,500 mile Level 4 space. United releases some award space in Business Class at the last minute but has none released over the summer. American releases little Business Class space, but a lot more First Class space.

American Airlines

For one passenger, there is award space in Business Class from New York to Los Angeles three times next week. That’s it for the next month.
Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.42.20 PM

But in First Class, there is space six days in the next week and 13 days in the next month.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.42.24 PM

This pattern repeats. In June and July, there is only one day with Business Class space from San Francisco to New York.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.43.22 PM

The same time period has 17 days with First Class award space.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.43.26 PM

From Los Angeles to New York, I searched for two passengers. There’s one day in the Fall with award space in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.43.59 PMBy contrast, First Class space for two is available most Saturdays.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.44.03 PM

The bottom line on American Airline space: way more First Class than Business Class award space, way more award space for 1 passenger than for 2, and award space is released at the last minute.

Delta

Here’s the next month from Los Angeles to New York. No award space even close to the Saver price of 32,500 miles one way. The best I find is Level 4 space for more than double that price.
Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.46.00 PM

Here’s the month after that. Still none.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.46.27 PM

In fact, I didn’t find 32,500 mile space between California and New York in either direction.

Nor did I find any between New York and Seattle, though it is widely available for the Level 2 price of 45,000 miles one way. Here’s a calendar of July dates. Every single day has 2+ award seats on multiple flights from Seattle to JFK for 45,000 miles per person.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.48.29 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.48.34 PM

We get the same view from New York to Seattle in the Fall.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.49.14 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.49.19 PM

The bottom line on Delta Saver space on transcontinental flights is that there basically is none.

United

United is coasting on its reputation from a few years ago of having the best award space. Right now its space on its transcontinental service is bad.

There is some space for one person from Los Angeles to New York in the next two weeks–six out of 14 days.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.51.10 PM

New York to Los Angeles shows a similar pattern for one person: 12 days in the next month with space.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.51.31 PM

But other than the next month, there is basically no space. New York to Los Angeles in June and July has zero Business Class award space.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.52.38 PM

Los Angeles to New York in the Fall has one day with award space in Business Class: Thanksgiving day.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.52.54 PM

San Francisco to New York has one day too: the day after Thanksgiving.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.53.50 PM

For two people, award space is even worse. One day in the next month from San Francisco to New York.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.55.39 PM

Three days between New York and San Francisco.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.55.55 PMThe bottom line on United transcontinental Business Class award space: almost all of it is in the next month on flights with only one award seat.

Bottom Line

United, Delta, and American put fully flat beds on 5-6 hour flights because there is a demand for such premium products that rich people are willing to pay. Either because most of the flat beds are being sold or because the airlines just want to protect the products, award space on these routes is very hard to find.

The best space is for one person within a month of departure in United Business Class and American Airlines First Class.

Getting the Miles

Singapore miles are a partner of every transferable points program. Cards I like that earns points that transfer:

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

We also know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time by June 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.
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51

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Generous reader g is giving away 20 Delta coupons that are each good for one beer, cocktail, “wine split,” or headset on board. I’ll pick FIVE WINNERS who each get FOUR COUPONS. The coupons are valid through December 31, 2015, so you’ve got 10 months to use them on Delta flights.

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By all accounts, Delta is the most pleasant legacy carrier to actually fly, and having four drink/headset coupons would make it even better.

There are two ways to enter this contest, and you can enter each way to double your chances of lounge access.

  1. Comment on this post with your opinion of Delta for a chance to win four passes. Include your real email address while commenting, so I can contact the winner. (Your email address will not be displayed and will not be used for any other purpose.)
  2. Retweet this tweet:

That means everyone can enter twice! I’ll pick a winner next Friday.

Don’t forget to join the 6,251 geniuses on Twitter and 4,731 mavens on Facebook who follow MileValue for more chances to win.

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Meeting the minimum spending requirement on the Arrival Plus give you about $500 worth of free flights on any airline with no blackouts.

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Delta got rid of its award chart two weeks ago. For awards starting and ending in the United States, I still know what Saver awards cost from memory and from these saved charts.

But now that Delta allows one way award bookings, I’d occasionally like to know the price of awards from Australia to Southeast Asia, Europe to Africa, or the Middle East to India. I don’t have those memorized, and I don’t have every set of Delta award charts for departures from every region saved anywhere. (Do you? Let me know in the comments.)

In fact, yesterday I was working on a booking for a client, and I wanted to know how many Delta miles a one way Business Class award from Beijing to Sydney would be. (By the way, the answer is apparently 65,000 miles based on the China Eastern award space online.)

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The Problem

When you want to know how many miles a trip costs, but there is no award chart and the partner that flies the route isn’t online, how do you find out the number of miles you need? I asked @DeltaAssist.

Delta’s Answer

I didn’t quite understand the response.

Maybe “CA” means that I can price the ticket by going through the initial steps of a purchase. Since the only way to purchase a China Southern award flight with Delta miles is to call Delta, I guess that’s what he’s suggesting.

I followed up to clarify, but I didn’t get a response.

If Delta Assist really is suggesting that you call Delta to figure out these award prices, that’s very strange. In every other context, airlines discourage you from calling them–going so far as to impose fees of up to $40 for calling instead of handling a task online. When you call Delta, that costs Delta money in staffing costs, so it’s a bit perplexing that Delta wants you to call and run up its costs. The only way that makes business sense is if removing the award chart from the internet is somehow more profitable than those phone staffing costs are costly.

Not Much of a Solution

I don’t care about Delta’s perspective as much as I care about ours. For us, it stinks to have to call Delta to get the price of these awards. I’ll have to find award space, wait on hold, deal with a (possibly) incompetent agent, and finally get the price of the award. Then I’ll have to hang up, compare that price to the price on the American and United award charts (and possibly many other airlines’ charts.) Then I’ll either have to decide to book the Delta award and call back or decide to book another airline’s award and go through that process.

The true solution of course is for Delta to put its award chart back online. That seems very unlikely, but I would have said it was impossible that an airline would pull its award chart off the internet in the first place, so stranger things have happened.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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4

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We’ve been getting bad news in the miles world lately, so let me state unequivocally: miles still offer unmatched value to travel the world more, better, and cheaper.

Here’s a round-the-world (RTW) trip you can take with miles that took me me about 10 minutes to find the award space for.

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There’s nothing particularly important about the cities or even the regions where this trip stops. It just shows an easy RTW award using one way awards. (This is the way to construct RTW awards now that American and Delta eliminated their true RTW awards in 2014.)

The Award

  • Virgin Australia flat bed Business Class from Los Angeles to Sydney: 80,000 Delta miles
  • Etihad First Class on its A380 from Sydney to Abu Dhabi: 60,000 American Airlines miles
  • airberlin flat bed Business Class from Abu Dhabi to Berlin: 25,000 British Airways Avios
  • airberlin and US Airways economy from Berlin to Los Angeles: 20,000 American Airlines miles

That’s 185,000 miles for an award that features mostly flat beds.  One person could get the necessary miles from four credit cards.

There’s nothing crucial about choosing the three cities I chose for stops. You can choose other cities–or see many cities in each region.

The Search

The searching took me about 10 minutes. I chose a November/December time frame for the search to maximize the weather in Sydney and Abu Dhabi and because many people get some free vacation days around Thanksgiving.

I did not search sequentially. I started my search by looking for Etihad First Class award space, which is the second part of the trip. This follows the basic principle to always search the hardest leg of a trip first. Not that Etihad First Class award space on its A380 from Sydney to Abu Dhabi is hard to find, but it is harder to find than the other awards on this trip, which are all gimmes.

Sydney to Abu Dhabi Search
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A seat plus a couch/bed in First on the Etihad A380

First Class award space from Sydney to Abu Dhabi is excellent in November. All those days below that say “Miles 121597″ have award space you can book for 60,000 American Airlines miles.

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But note that there are two daily flights, and only the evening one is on the A380.

For full details on searching etihad.com, the A380 First Class Service, and award space on the route, see Amazing Award Space for 2 on Nicest First Class in the World? 14 Hours in Etihad A380 First Class for 60,000 Miles.

Los Angeles to Sydney Search

After picking November 22 from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, I circled back to the beginning and searched from Los Angeles to Sydney. There is award space nearly every day in Business Class on Virgin Australia on the route. It costs 80,000 Delta miles per person and is searchable on delta.com.Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.38.14 AM

I picked November 12 for the Los Angeles-to-Sydney leg. Look at the award space that day:Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.39.32 AM

  • Delta’s nonstop bed is 175,000 miles.
  • Connecting in Korea is 80,000 miles but adds 10 hours.
  • Virgin Australia’s nonstop bed is 80,000 miles.

Easy choice with the Virgin Australia bed.

For more info on the search, product, and award space, see Award Space for 12 to Australia over Christmas and New Year.

Abu Dhabi to Berlin Search

airberlin, the oneworld member, has daily flights from Abu Dhabi to Berlin. airblerin flights do not have fuel surcharges, so they are a great way to use Avios.

Award space is exellent on the flights in economy and flat bed Business Class.

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The award costs 12,500 Avios in economy and 25,000 Avios in Business Class plus nominal taxes.Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.43.20 AM

This award will go up to 37,500 Avios in Business Class with the April 28, 2015 devaluation of Avios.

Here’s how to search on ba.com.

Berlin to Los Angeles Flight

For the last award, I wanted to book economy. Early December is part of American Airlines’ off peak season for economy awards between the United States and Europe (October 15 to May 15 every year.) These awards cost only 20,000 American Airlines miles.

Since we’re looking at daytime flights, economy seems bearable.

I found the following award for 20,000 AA miles + taxes.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.52.04 AM Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.52.08 AMairberlin space is excellent to the United States this winter.

The full trip looks like this.

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  • November 12: Los Angeles to Sydney in Virgin Australia Business Class
  • November 22: Sydney to Abu Dhabi in Etihad First Class
  • November 25: Abu Dhabi to Berlin in airberlin Business Class
  • December 2: Berlin to Chicago to Phoenix to Los Angeles in airberlin/US Airways economy

The total cost is 80,000 Delta miles, 80,000 American miles, and 25,000 British Airways Avios plus about $190 in taxes, no fees or fuel surcharges.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards, and that would earn more than the 80,000 American Airlines miles needed.

The third card you’d want is the Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-BenzThe Platinum Card from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz comes with 50,000 Membership Rewards after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card has a $475 annual fee in the first year. But it comes with huge benefits like airline fee reimbursement, airport lounge access, and hotel status. For more info on setting up and maximizing the benefits, see Get the Most Out of Your Platinum Card.

The last card is the next Membership Rewards or Delta co-branded card that offers a 50,000 point/mile bonus. These offers are frequent, but I don’t know of any others right now besides the Mercedes-Benz Platinum card above.

With these four cards, you’d have 106,000 American Airlines miles and either 100,000+ Membership Rewards or 50,000+ Delta miles and 50,000+ Membership Rewards. Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to Delta miles and British Airways Avios, so you can spread them around to have 80,000 Delta miles and 25,000 Avios.

Bottom Line

It’s really easy to put together a dream RTW trip with miles because miles still offer an incredible value. There’s nothing special about living in Los Angeles or visiting Sydney, Abu Dhabi, and Berlin as in my example. No matter where you live and want to go, these great deals exist. (I felt sad not including this flight in my example.)

What is your favorite string of one way awards that creates a RTW award?

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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5

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Delta awards that originate in Europe have big fuel surcharges, but they can be dumped fairly easily.

The fuel surcharges weren’t much of an issue for most Americans in the past when Delta required roundtrip awards because not many of us book roundtrips originating in Europe. But now that Delta allows one way awards, the fuel surcharges for awards originating in Europe are very annoying. They effectively make it cost-prohibitive to book a one way award from Europe to the United States.

The Problem

For instance this Madrid to New York one way has 199 euros ($230) worth of taxes, fees, and charges.

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That roughly lines up with the taxes and fuel surcharges (194 euros) of a cash ticket.

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But if you book this one way as part of a roundtrip to Madrid, you pay only $91 total in taxes for the entire roundtrip.

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The Solution

The way to fuel dump the one way ticket out of Europe is to add a preceding one way ticket that originates somewhere other than Europe, like the United States.

Go to the Delta Multi-city search page and search for a flight that doesn’t originate in Europe followed by your one way ticket from Europe to the United Staes.

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In the above example, I’ve chose Atlanta to New York preceding Madrid to New York. Yes, back-to-back flights on the award go to New York. I chose this example to show that the preceding flight can really be any flight that doesn’t originate in Europe.

This award booked at 87,500 miles + $68–no fuel surcharges–in First Class and Business Class. That’s 25,000 miles for Domestic First Class and 62,500 miles for Business Class from Europe to the United States.

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It priced as 42,500 miles in economy–12,500 miles for domestic economy and 30,000 miles for Europe to the United States. Again without fuel surcharges.

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Unfortunately online I couldn’t get the computer to price domestic economy plus Business Class returning from Europe. When I selected flights like that, it overrode my selection and put the first flight in First Class.

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The first flight doesn’t need to be a domestic flight in the United States. Here is an example where the first flight is Seoul to Tokyo, which by the way, is dirt cheap at 7,500 miles one way.

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The award prices at 37,500 miles + $88 in taxes–again, no fuel surcharges.

The Problems with the Solution

The big one: If you don’t fly the first flight, your entire award will be cancelled. Pick a first flight you actually need.

Smaller one: Domestic First Class on most routes is not worth double the price of economy, but I couldn’t price out domestic economy for the first flight plus international Business Class home from Europe. I suspect you could price this out correctly by phone. I further suspect the agent’s computer would spit out the taxes without fuel surcharges for the entire award, and the agent wouldn’t even notice that you just dumped over $200 in bogus fuel surcharges.

Hat Tip for this trick to reader John who came up with it while playing around with a Delta award he was booking.

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Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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